OCEAN CITY – The 27th Annual Seaside Boat Show, hosted by the Ocean City-Berlin Optimist Club for nearly three decades, returns this weekend, and if ever the resort needed a reason for the optimism and hope the event typically provides, this is the year it is needed the most.
For 27 years, the annual event has marked a turning point in the winter season for visitors to Ocean City and the town’s hearty residents. Coupled with the President’s Day holiday, with a good dose of Valentine’s Day mixed in, the three-day weekend is a jumping off point of sorts for the late winter and early spring special events season and is typically when many businesses shuttered for the winter get back in the game.
After back-to-back epic snowstorms in an area not accustomed more than a couple of inches a couple times a year, Ocean City should be ready for a three-day holiday weekend and a little taste of what is to come that the boat show provides. With a comparatively decent forecast for the weekend, the stars are lined up for another highly successful event.
“The city has just taken a beating the last two weekends, so the timing couldn’t be much better,” said Ocean City-Berlin Optimist Club spokesman Charles Smith. “With a decent forecast, people stuck buried in snow and stuck inside the last couple of weeks should be ready to get down here for the boat show.”
Despite the unusually harsh winter, Smith said the boat show has not taken too big a hit and will be sold out as usual in terms of vendors. Some vendors dropped out largely because of weather-related issues, but the event will still be as big as ever.
“We had a few vendors unable to make it, but for years we’ve had a waiting list of other vendors hoping to get into the show and we’ve filled the void,” said Smith. “It will be a complete sell out as usual.”
Held at the Roland E. Powell Convention Center for the last 26 years, the annual boat show typically draws thousands of boat and water sports enthusiasts to the resort over President’s Day weekend. While its benefits in terms of providing an economic shot in the arm for the resort business community cannot be discounted, the boat show’s biggest beneficiaries are the local charities and public service programs the Optimists support with the funds they raise.
The show provides the Optimist Club with the opportunity to raise funds for the many programs it supports including the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Junior Achievement, Diakonia, Children’s House by the Sea and all local schools and recreation programs. One of the highlights of the boat show is the Optimist Club’s scholarship lottery with the purchase of a $100 ticket earning the buyer a chance at a $100,000 prize.
Over the years, the club has raised over $1.3 million and provided scholarship to 250 Stephen Decatur High School students. Tickets are available at Donald’s Duck Shop in the Gold Coast Mall or at the convention center during the event. The lottery drawing is held at 5 p.m. on the last day of the show.
One of the highlights each year is the wonderful door prize for which all attendees will be eligible to win. North Bay Marina owners Scott and Mary McCurdy are once again donating a pontoon boat for the door prize, just as they have done for the last 20 years or so. Each person who purchases a show admission has a chance to win the pontoon boat.
“North Bay Marina began donating a pontoon boat for the show 20 years ago and it’s always a big part of the event,” said Smith. “Obviously, the McCurdy family has been a big part of the success of the boat show.”
As the name implies, the annual event is all about boats large and small, but there is much more going on with something to offer everybody. In addition to the boats, there will be vendors offering everything to do with water sports from fishing tackle to clothing and accessories and everything in between. It’s also a kid-friendly event with Optimist members dressed as pirates handing out Dolle’s saltwater taffy. Also new this year, the Worcester County Health Department will be on hand with a booth set up for H1N1 vaccinations.
Times of the show are today, Feb. 13, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; Saturday, Feb. 14, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults and $1 for kids. A weekend pass is available for $15.